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There are times in life where you might need some extra cash. You may be struggling to pay for a big life event like a wedding or have a financial problem like mountainous debt or medical bills. Here’s where a personal loan can come in handy.

A personal loan, also known as an unsecured loan, isn’t backed by collateral like a mortgage or car loan. But like other loans, it accrues interest and must be paid back monthly.

“Personal loans can be a useful tool for anyone who has a healthy credit score and the ability to affordably repay the amount they borrow,” says Bruce McClary, spokesperson for the National Foundation for Credit Counseling. “The key is to be sure that loan repayment will not get in the way of other financial obligations, most importantly savings.”

Keep reading to learn how a personal loan might be useful to your financial situation and find out about the credit profile you’ll need to qualify for one.

Common Personal Loan Uses

One of the most common reasons to take out a personal loan is to consolidate high-interest credit card debt. It’s most beneficial “if the terms are more affordable and the credit cards are not used until the consolidated balances are repaid,” McClary says.

Managing your debt this way allows you to take advantage of an installment loan with a fixed interest rate and monthly payment amount, rather than using the revolving, variable-rate credit typical of credit cards.

Other common personal loan uses include financing the purchase of big-ticket items like appliances and furniture, car repairs or travel expenses, McClary says.

The Application Process

The personal loan application process is similar to other loan processes in that you can usually apply online. Funding can happen more quickly than other loan types, however.

You should first decide which lending route you’d like to take: traditional or alternative. Banks and credit unions typically offer personal loan products. So do companies known as “marketplace lenders,” or platforms that offer peer-to-peer loans funded by an investor to an individual.

Each lender’s requirements vary, but most will evaluate your credit profile, income, other debt obligations and monthly cash flow.

While there is no single perfect consumer of a personal loan, lenders will be looking for a minimum acceptable credit score. What’s acceptable varies from lender to lender, but it usually falls within a range of 600 to 700+.

“People who qualify for the best financing terms typically have a FICO credit score in the high 700s or better, supported by a history of timely payments on their past and present financial obligations,” McClary says.

Lenders will also take into consideration the purpose of the loan and any other pertinent information about your financial situation, such as other debt. In most cases, the applicant will need a checking account into which the lender can deposit the funds directly, pending approval.

Applicants with a low credit score may face very high interest rates on loans from banks; they might be better off using a peer-to-peer lending network or drawing up a non- or low-interest loan contract with a friend or relative.

What if You’re Denied?

What do you do if your personal loan application is rejected? Start by finding out why.

“Lenders are required by law to disclose the determining factors,” McClary says. “It may be possible to quickly address some of the issues with additional documentation or an updated loan application, but rejection due to poor credit may be a sign that help is needed to get finances back on track.”

Take a look at your credit report and contact the appropriate credit reporting bureau to correct any errors. You should also work on consistently paying your bills on time, whittling down credit card balances and being sure you don’t skip any payments.

Ultimately, however, the best way to qualify for a personal loan is to get on the right path by responsibly paying back your debts.

Jordan Rosenfeld is a freelance writer, editor and author of seven books. In addition to MoneyGeek, her work has appeared in such places as The Atlantic, Daily Worth, GOOD Magazine, Medical Economics, The New York Times, Scientific American, The Washington Post and many more. Follow her on Twitter: @JordanRosenfeld.

This Post Has 14 Comments

  1. I just sold a condo in MB, SC. QL was my mortgage lender. They also had the mortgage on my house and acres in Virginia until 07/2016. I am now living with a grown daughter, pay no rent, have paid off all credit card bills except for a purchase to replace my kids W/D and my vehicle loan. I would like to purchase a used motorhome and would like to be pre-approved for that loan to see how much I qualify for. I have $10,000 to apply toward the purchase price and the one I am currently interested in is $27,000. With clean title, so my loan would be $17,000. I don’t want a lot of inquiries made to mar my credit report…just a pre-approval. Thank you. ***********. Pls LV msg inspire of RoboKiller message.

    1. Hi Patricia:

      We don’t do motorhome loans, but our friends at Rocket Loans could perhaps help with a personal loan. If you would like to get started, you can apply online. Viewing your rate won’t affect your credit.

  2. I would like to do a personal loan to consolidate
    dental bills, taxes & moving expenses endured last year. The last Credit score I received from
    Wells Fargo 3 months ago was 829 & I have the paper to prove it.

    1. Hi Linda,

      Consolidation is a great reason to take out a personal loan.

      If you would like to apply or get more info on a personal loan, visit the Rocket Loans page or call the Rocket Loans Loan Support Center at (800) 333-7625.

      Thank you!

  3. I need to pay off credit cards. Interest is so high and I am not getting anywhere. I would like to pay off & keep one card. Does paying off cc’s & closing accounts hurt your credit rating?

    1. Hi Jean:

      Paying off credit cards doesn’t hurt your credit. I do it every month to avoid the interest charges. What could hurt your credit is closing accounts. Instead, what I might suggest doing is paying off your cards and then spreading smaller amounts across your cards. That way, you can pay off the balances (or failing that, keep them more manageable) every month without taking the credit hit that you can see from having too many account closures at once or not having enough accounts open. There’s some more information here. Hope this helps!

    1. Hi Joseph:

      We don’t do those, but our friends over at Rocket Loans do personal loans anywhere from $2,000 – $45,000. Go out and check them out! Hope this helps.

      Kevin Graham

    1. Hi Judy:

      Quicken Loans® itself doesn’t do personal loans. We do mortgages. However, one of our sister companies, Rocket Loans, can help you with a personal loan between $2,000–$45,000. Hope this helps!

      Kevin Graham

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